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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Body

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NB: this review discusses plot twists you might not want to be forewarned about.

On the Night Before Christmas, twentysomething gal pals Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen) and Mel (Lauren Molina) are hanging out, playing Scrabble, and nattering about their not-quite aimless lives … Cali suggests they go and enjoy the wild facilities at a relative’s luxurious home, but after some minor partying and damage Holly notices that all the photographs in the place show an Asian family and Cali admits this is a place where she used to babysit and that they’ve effectively broken in.  Then, groundskeeper Arthur (Larry Fessenden) shows up and gets pushed down the stairs.  Assuming that he’s dead, the girls dither over what to do and the smart-talking, ruthless Cali persuades the others that they should make a hysterical call to the police claiming that Arthur tried to rape Holly – who, in a tactfully-filmed but unnerving bit, sticks his purportedly dead fingers in her vagina – and was justifiably killed.  Only, in a not-unexpected turn of the screw, Arthur revives and begs for help, and Cali switches tack … first suggesting they stand by and hope he dies a natural death, then looking around for a pillow or a bludgeon.  Meanwhile, Holly’s boyfriend (Adam Cornelius) shows up intent on joining the fun and adding to the black farce of the evening.

This is an entry in the sub-genre of Very Bad Things, Stag, Shallow Grave and A Simple Plan, in which a reasonably ordinary, fallible bunch of folks get deeper and deeper in a dire situation, tempted to ever-more-extreme crimes as they try to get their normal lives back on track after a disastrous step over the line.  It’s unusual in that the group are all-female, though there was an embryonic version of the form in the set-up for the vintage slasher film The House on Sorority Row … the three actresses get a real work-out as very distinct characters, with Rogers (who was in one of the best segments of V/H/S) as the moral conscience, Turshen (who was coincidentally in an unrelated short called The Body) as the amoral and subtly envious bitch and Molina interestingly wavering between the two (more than once, she gets the casting vote).

In the climax, the tangle of relationships gets thrown up in the air again as Holly and Cali find themselves fighting physically and yet more spin has to be put on the survivors’ story if there’s to be a satisfying ending … though it’s a creepy little niggle that even the good girl doesn’t think of the harm which will be done to Arthur’s family (he says he has kids) if he’s posthumously labelled a sex offender.  Fessenden, who is becoming an archetypal cameo player, is aces in a naturally limited role which must still have required a lot of patience (and lying still).  Written and directed by Robert Olsen and Dan Berk, and unfolding at a fat-free 75 minutes.

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